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Mumbai civic polls: BJP hijacks Chhatrapati Shivaji from right under Shiv Sena's nose

Mumbai: Shiv Sena is facing its biggest political challenge in the form of friendly fire as its alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party is increasingly owning the regional outfit's ideological influence Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji.

As the alliance with Shiv Sena isn't as healthy as before, the BJP in the last 26 months has quietly tried to usurp the monopoly that the regional party holds over the ideology of the 17th century Maratha king. In the Maharashtra Assembly election in 2014, the BJP openly and in fact successfully used the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji for electoral gains.

 Mumbai civic polls: BJP hijacks Chhatrapati Shivaji from right under Shiv Senas nose

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. AFP

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to lay the foundation of a Chhatrapati Shivaji statue in the Arabian Sea on Saturday, it is evident that the BJP has hijacked the influence of the Maratha king from Shiv Sena right under the nose of its supremo Uddhav Thackeray. The Shiv Sena chief is one of the invitees to the event. The BJP is already indicating that it has fulfilled one of its pre-poll promises made ahead of the last state poll. Ironically, the event which is organised by the Maharashtra government is fast turning out to be a BJP one.

A whopping Rs 18 crore has already been spent on the publicity of the event by the state government. The state BJP is leaving no stone unturned to make the event a success with hoardings coming up at important places in all Maharashtra districts.

"With campaigns starting in print, TV and social media soon, the cost would be more than Rs 18 crore," said a senior government official on condition of anonymity.

BJP state president Raosaheb Danve reportedly gave instruction to all party MLAs and district presidents to let the people in their respective constituencies know that the state government has fulfilled the promise of a Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial in the Arabian Sea.

Talking to Firstpost, Mumbai BJP president and MLA Aashish Shelar said, "Well known art director Nitin Desai is busy in making the huge set on the theme of Shivaji's life. There will also be a film on Shivaji that would be screened at the BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex) where the Prime Minister will address a rally. Arrangement to accommodate over one lakh people is being done."

"Security has been beefed up on the Prime Minister’s route with the help of navy and other agencies. People who would be present at the BKC can watch the ceremony live," he said.

Chief Minister Fadnavis on Tuesday said the planned statue of the Maratha warrior is the tallest memorial in the world.

"I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making it possible. Well-known sculptor Ram Sutar is making the statue," he said.

Names of those who would accompany Modi in the hovercraft to the bhoomi pujan venue has also been finalised. Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Satara MP Udayanraje Bhosale, Rajya Sabha MP from Kolhapur Sambhaji Raje Bhosle and a priest named Deodhar. In another hovercraft, PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil, Education Minister Vinod Tawde, MSRDC Minister Eknath Shinde, Industry Minister Subhash Desai, MP Arvind Sawant, MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha and MLC Vindayak Mete would travel to the inauguration site, sources told Firstpost.

Vinayak Mete, who is the president of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial Samiti said that sand was collected from more than 50 forts and holy water from 50 rivers for the ceremony.

The entry to the statue will be from Girgaum Chowpatty.

In the next 100 days, there are elections in more than 10 municipal corporations including Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and in over 26 Zilla Parishads.

"There is little doubt that the BJP will use the presence of the Prime Minister for maximum political mileage with Modi also scheduled to inaugurate two metro projects and the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Mumbai Trans Harbour Link. The BJP's campaign for the BMC polls would start on Saturday," said political analyst Abhay Deshpande.

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Updated Date: Dec 22, 2016 22:42:58 IST